We've been to Port Lympne animal reserve a few times now and each visit has been so much fun. We've been in the summer when it was super busy and during a week day when the kids are at school and it feels like we're the only ones there (we're not!), and both occasions have been great fun. Earlier this week when most of the East Sussex and Kent schools had gone back we headed to Port Lympne with my mum and brother to visit for the first time. They'd heard so many great things from me that they didn't want to stay away.
Port Lympne is set is picturesque countryside, but it is quite a steep hill, so I was interested to see how we'd all cope as mum has COPD, I've got calf issues currently and my brother had a knee op earlier this year. I was so impressed that when I mentioned mum's condition to any of the staff they told me I could approach any member of staff with a radio, if we needed to, and they would get a minibus to take mum back to the top. It turned out we didn't need to, as we took it easy on the hills, made use of all the appropriately positioned benches and stopped to look at the animals as we went.
Parking is super easy at Port Lympne; there is plenty available with hard standing close to the bridge to cross into the park and loads of grass overflow beyond that. There is also disabled parking right close to the bridge and the bridge has a slope to go up and down it.
To get into the park you have to pass through the shop, there are toilets there and also a cafe very close. There are tons of child buggies that you can borrow across the park too if you need them and you can hire a wheelchair at the Gatehouse if you require.
An adult ticket is £26.00 on the day and a child (3-15 years) is £22.00. Or you can book online in advance and get a 20% discount.
Kids Go Free in September 2019
A paying child is aged 3 - 15 years, and you just need to fill out some basic details online to be emailed your voucher. Each child will go free with a full paying adult and this offer is available for tickets purchased on the day, at the Gatehouse.
|Look at the amazing views onto the Romney Marshes|
Heading out on Safari
A short walk from the Gatehouse is Base Camp and this is where you can buy a hot meal, have a coffee, ice cream or beer and pick up your safari truck to go exploring. You don't have to take the truck, there is a walking route but you'd miss all the free roaming animals and in my opinion, you'd seriously miss out as the safari tour is my favourite part of the day.
If you have a pushchair you have to leave it here, as you can't take it on the truck, but there are so many you can borrow when you get off the other end. The trucks do have room for a single wheelchair or mobility scooter so everyone can enjoy the experience, but be aware it can be bumpy!
During the quieter times the trucks run every 30 minutes and you can easily get a seat and we even had enough room that we could (safely) move between seats of the truck to get the best view of the animals. The safari tour takes around an hour and I get even begin to explain to you all the different animals you'll get to see - bears, rhinos, antelope, giraffes, wildebeest, painted dogs, eland, red letchwe, ostrich, bison, zebras and many, many types of deer.
In the busier times (summer school holidays) more trucks run to make them more frequent, but there can be delays, we waited about an hour the first time we visited on a hot August day. Thankfully there is a play park next to the queue and also seating all along, so you can rest if need be.
Seeing the other Animals
As well as the safari you can also walk and see many animals. The safari truck stops at Carnivore territory and you can get off there to explore, or stay on the truck and go back up to the start, to Base Camp. You can also pick up a safari truck there once you have explored the surrounding area.
My favourite animals to see are the gorillas and sadly on this visit they weren't feeling too cooperative and we didn't get to see them outside or playing. We really should have gone to the Palace of the Apes at either 12 noon or 3pm and seen them being fed and listened to the keeper talk.
There are many small types of wild cats in this area, as well as cheetahs, meerkats, bison and przewalski's horses. You follow the hill up the primate trail and can see loads of monkeys and gibbons too. Then up by the Gatehouse you can see the lions and tigers too and I have to admit we totally forgot to go and visit them! Oh well, it means we saved something for next time, as we are bound to be back.
There are a number of keeper talks and feeds spread out through the day and if there are a few you want to make sure you see, you need to plan your day well. On the quiet day we visited there were five separate events available.
What else is there for the kids?
I've mentioned the play park at Base Camp and there is another in Carnivore territory. Then the big attraction for many smaller children is the Dinosaur Forest. I have to admit we have never been in there as my children are older and not interested in dino's any longer! Port Lympne is home to the UK's largest dinosaur forest with loads of life sized dinosaurs that have all been designed by Palaeontologists, so every model is anatomically correct and just as it would have been as it walked the earth millions of years ago! There is also a free app you can download to make the dinosaurs come to life using virtual reality.
This September each weekend is small carnivore September, where there will be activities, guided tours and competitions to win great prizes.
Food and Drink
During the peak times there are plenty of different outlets for food and drink. On the term-time day we visited it was the Base Camp cafe serving all day and the cafe by the Gatehouse. The food kiosk by carnivore territory closed at 3.30pm just as we arrived there, but the gorgeous Italian restaurant, Babydoll or the Port Lympne Hotel were open if we fancied a more special meal.
My brother paid £6.00 for 2 sausages, chips and beans. A magnum ice cream was £3, a large fizzy drink was £2.90, a warm sausage roll £3.00 and a bottle of water £1.50. So I think the prices are in line with most attractions and as such most of us took a picnic with us and there were plenty of benches for us to use in the Base Camp area. There are also other picnic areas across the park too.
|Taken by my husband on our last visit in 2017|
Staying at Port Lympne
Port Lympne is the perfect place for an overnight stay or a short break. My husband and I were lucky enough to have a night in the Giraffe Lodge back in 2017 and it was such a magical experience, I'll never forget waking at dawn and watching the animals come to the watering hole.
There are a whole range of places to stay within the reserve and in many of them you can get up close and personal with the animals. Miss E has been bugging me for the last two years to take her, so we can have a night away together and I am saving up!
There are glamping pods, shepherds huts, lodges where you are separated from a tiger or lion by just glass, the historic Port Lympne hotel, the futuristic Treehouse Hotel and even a bubble with 180 degree views of the park.
|The view from our terrace at Giraffe Lodge|
Address: Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, Aldington Road, Lympne, Nr Ashford Kent, CT21 4PD Telephone: 01303 264647
SatNav Postcode: CT21 4LR
Phone Number: 01303 264647
Email Address: email@example.com
Opening Hours: Winter (29 October - 31 March) 9.30am - 5pm and Summer (1 April 27 October) 9.30am - 6.30pm.
Dogs: including assistance dogs are not allowed in the park and of course should not be left in your car either
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Disclosure: We received complimentary day entry in exchange for an honest review and social media coverage. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.